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12.2008

Stop Female Genital Mutilation in Iraqi-Kurdistan:
Appeal for Donations

We invite you to take part in social change in the making. Over the past four years, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Iraqi-Kurdistan has ceased to be a practice protected by the silence of strict social taboo. FGM is now the topic of open public debate, with growing active support to ban it by law and combat against it through social, medical and educational action. This remarkable change has been made possible by a group of local activists, working across Iraqi-Kurdistan in WADI's various projects and initiatives for women’s rights and equality. Not only have we exposed and began to document how wide-spread FGM is in our society, but we have also launched in 2006 a campaign to stop it. To hold to the successes achieved by this campaign so far, and to advance further, we need your support: any donation can make a difference.

Stopping FGM in Iraqi-Kurdistan: successes, hopes and challenges

Stop FGM in KurdistanFemale genital mutilation is recognized in international conventions as a human rights violation and a severe form of violence against women. For several decades, international and local agencies and organizations have been campaigning against it in various countries of Africa, and more recently in Europe as well. But in Iraq, as in other countries of the Middle East, official documents of governments and United Nations agencies alike, still neglect this abuse.

In 2004, members of WADI's mobile teams – working to provide basic medical, social and educational support to women in the rural areas of Garmyan region – received first reports about FGM. They started to ask questions: interviewing a sample of nearly 1,500 women and young girls in various villages, the mobile teams discovered that 907 of them were victims of FGM. A study in the area of Erbil brought similar results: of 440 women interviewed, 380 were circumcised.

Following these troubling discoveries, the campaign Stop FGM in Kurdistan was launched in 2006, planned and carried out by Wadi’s staff in Iraq in cooperation with other local women’s groups and human rights organizations. The Suleymiah-based Iraqi NGO WOLA – Woman Law Center is now running this camapaign in co-operation with Wadi.

In the end of two short years since its beginning, the campaign can already report successes:

Documentation

In 2007 we began a data-collection research in all three Governorates of Iraqi-Kurdistan, interviewing more than 1,800 women. Analysis of the data has not been finalized yet, but preliminary findings show that FGM is indeed widespread across the region – ranging from 60% to virtually 100% affected women in different areas.

The operation is done in secret to girls aged 4-12. It is carried out by a women member of the family, a neighbour or a midwife. No anaesthetics are used, and instruments are usually not sterile. The girl’s clitoris is being cut and sometimes part of the labia. To stop the bleeding the wound is covered with ash or icy water.

The latest findings from the Pishder region and Raniyah paint a dramatic picture of the situation: between March and August 2008, Wadi’s mobile team paid 115 regular visits to 50 Villages and 25 girls schools in the Raniya region and as a result they met 2,952 women and girls. From these a total of 2,810 were mutilated, which amounts to 95 %.

Breaking the silence

These sad facts have been reported in local media, covered by newspapers, debated upon in magazines, radio stations and talk shows. This is an unprecedented appearance of FGM in the public sphere anywhere in the Middle East . This is a remarkable achievement – the secrecy and pretence that FGM does not happen have been an important source of power for the continuation of this practice.

Just recently the minister of health, Zarian Abdel Rahman, on behalf of the Kurdish Regional Government admitted publicly that in the region "60 percent of girls aged four to fourteen undergo circumcision, despite warnings by ministers against this grievous practice committed in the name of religion and hygiene." (AFP, 22.10.2008).

Public mobilisation

On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, in March 2007, the campaign Stop FGM in Kurdistan published an open letter to the Kurdish Regional Parliament, in all local newspapers demanding it to legally ban FGM. In only few days, more than 14,000 people signed the letter, among them prominent journalists, artists and writers.

Legal reform

Following the public support to the demand to ban FGM, an experts conference met in April 2007, including lawyers, physicians, women’s right and human rights activists to draft an anti-FGM law. The bill was submitted to the Regional Parliament and is expected to come into force by the end of 2008.

Social and educational action

Breaking the silence, mobilising public opinion and advancing a legal ban are the first steps in a longer process to stop FGM. To raise awareness, provide information and practical medical, social and psychological assistance WADI runs women-lead local mobile teams. They visit villages and schools, especially in the rural areas of the region, where services are hardly available and the formal education of women is low.

Through their long term work, the teams have come to be accepted and trusted in the communities in which they work, and can therefore help brining about change. Locally produced films about FGM are shown by the teams in the villages. The teams’ experience has shown that many women are willing and hoping to stop this practice, and do not wish to put their own daughters through this. But they lack the support and organization to resist the strong social pressures to conform. The mobile teams help fulfilling this important need.
What You Can Do

We need your donation to continue the work of the Anti-FGM mobile teams – for their training and operation costs, and for setting up new teams to meet local demand.

$ 1,800 is enough to cover the monthly costs of each team. In this very cost-effective enterprise any donation, large or small, will make a difference. The teams-staff already sees a decrease in newly mutilated girls in the villages where they work.

You can also help us get more people to know about this appeal: forward the appeal to your friends and colleagues, tell them about it, post it on your blog or write to your local newspaper.

Thank you very much and we wish all of you peaceful holidays and all the best for the year 2009

Suaad Abdulrahman

Donation account:
Ref: »Stop FGM in Kurdistan«
Account Number: 612 305 602
Bank: Postbank Frankfurt
Code: 500 100 60
IBAN: DE43500100600612305602
BIC: PBNKDEFF

Or via

For any questions or further information, please do not hesitate to contact us at:

»Stop FGM in Kurdistan«
stopfgmkurdistan@yahoo.com
Tel: 00964-7701-588173
www.stopfgmkurdistan.org

WADI e. V.
Herborner Str. 62
D-60439 Frankfurt a. M.
Tel: 069-57002440/ Fax: 069-57002444
info@wadinet.de
www.wadinet.de